Banana slub


California, October 2018

Last updated October 15, 2018



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Day One | Day Two | Day Three | Day Four | Day Five | Day Six | Day Seven | Day Eight

The last time I saw my folks was January 20, 2018. That was also the same day Norma and I adopted Daphne. Ironically, the next visit to see my parents would be the first time we would both be away from Daphne. We were looking forward to seeing my folks but sad to leave Daphne behind. But we found a competent dog, chicken, and cat sitter who would be spending a lot of time with Daphne. Additionally, our sitter had her own dog who would become playmates with Daphne while we were away. She did a great job sending us photos and videos of Daphne while we were gone which set us at ease.

Day One, Saturday, October 6, 2018
Norma and I flew from Baltimore to Sacramento on Southwest Airlines. There are plenty of things I like about Southwest but one thing I hate is how easy it is for groups to be split up. It would be nice if I could sit next to my wife without having to pay extra. I guess that's the cost of spending less.

Upon landing, we rented a car and then drove to my parents' house. We were very glad to see them.

Day Two, Sunday, October 7, 2018

If it wasn't for my mom reminding us, Norma and I would have forgotten to recognize that today was our six year wedding anniversary.

Sacramento is known as the "Farm-to-Fork Capital," largely because there are so many farms in the area. This is a great thing for the residents who have access to lots of healthy fruits and vegetables. On previous trips, we stopped in at one of the downtown farmers' markets and the one in Florin. Today, we visited the W and 8th Street Farmers' Market. I had never been there before.

It seems every time I return to Sacramento, I notice that something has been done to beautify the city. The farmers' market is located under interstate 80 which makes for good rain protection in the rare event that it precipitates along with shade when it is hot. Looking up at the bottom side of the highway, there is a very nice mural. See first and second photos.

Norma and I got to sample various fruits and breads. One might be able to fill up on the free samples. We purchased plenty of fruits and gifts to take home and give to friends and co-workers.
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We left the farmers' market and ventured across the street to Southside Park. Southside Park was developed in the early 1900s. It is one of Sacramento's first large public parks. Prior to its development, it was swamp land that was used as dumping grounds. Now it has a playground, pool, stage for performances, and a pond that is home to a variety of wildlife such as a great blue heron and turtles (first photo).

In Maryland, wood ducks don't let me get close enough to photograph them. But this drake (second photo) was not as shy.

We saw what appeared to be chestnuts on the ground. Looking up, we saw this (third photo). It didn't look like the chestnuts I was familiar with. It turns out this is an autumn conker which is also known as a horse chestnut. It is poisonous so don't eat it. For more information, see Quirksee - How to Identify the Poisonous Horse Chestnut.

We saw this dog (fourth photo) in Southside Park that reminded us of Daphne. It made us miss her more.
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Originally, Norma and I were going to fly out in late October so we could attend the reunion for my mother's side of the family. This is an annual event held at Marie's house. Marie is a friend of the family. She has a lovely farm in Wilton where she hosts this event. It turned out Aunt Kiyo couldn't attend at the regularly scheduled date in late October. Hence, the organizer moved the date so she could attend. Thus, Norma rescheduled our flight so we could also be there. But in the end, Aunt Kiyo could not make it due to health issues.

Here is some of my mother's side of the family (first photo). They are uncles, aunts, cousins, spouses, and their children. These are really good people and I am proud to be related to them.

One of the great things about this place is the pond with all the pretty water lilies in bloom. See second and third photos.

I saw several dozen ladybug nymphs near the pond at Marie's farm. See fourth photo.

On the drive home, we saw a snake slither across the road in Wilton. It was too far away to tell what kind it was.

During the summer, there were numerous wildfires that left Sacramento hazy. Vehicles were covered in ash. We picked a good time to visit. The fires were under control and the skies were clear. I'm not used to seeing the sky being so blue and cloudless. In Maryland, I would call it a perfect day if the wind were low. But at this time of the year in Sacramento, that is the default. If I lived here, I could easily see myself getting used to it and then taking it for granted.
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That evening, Norma and I met up with Doctors Dennis and Sharon at the Three Sisters restaurant. Dennis was my 12th grade English teacher and Chess Club advisor. I was a pretty nerdy kid in high school so I spent much more time playing chess than participating in sports or talking to girls. See photo.
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Day Three, Monday, October 8, 2018, Columbus Day
Norma and I went to my parents' gym with them in the morning. They go quite regularly and I think they inspire a lot of folks. I hope I can exercise as often as they do when I am their age.

Back at home, I took care of various chores around the house. Nothing too big but certainly stuff that needed to get done.

Stormy Daniels was performing at a strip club in the Sacramento area. Our local newspaper reported that she has more female attendees than male because so many women are sympathetic to her case against the President. Since Norma and I are not fond of Trump, I suggested we should also attend to show our support. She did not agree.

Day Four, Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Norma planned a couple of hikes for us. We invited various people to join us but folks either had to work, were doing something else, or just weren't interested. So it was just her and me.

We drove west. A quail ran across the road in front of us.

There was a good bit of prickly pear cactus with fruit (first photo, first column). In Maryland, Norma once made cookies using such fruit that I picked after a Patuxent River trash cleanup.

The two of us commenced our hike in the 640-acre Stebbins Cold Canyon Reserve. We would do the Homestead-Blue Ridge Trail circuit hike, covering 5.8 miles and 1840 feet of ascent. This route is described in "60 Hikes within 60 Miles, Sacramento" as having
  • Spectacular views of Lake Berryessa.
  • "Monster stairs" to a ridgeline trail where what was once ocean floor now stands on its side.
  • Seven habitat zones, or biozones, which support a vast array of fauna and flora.

  • We have a big pine tree on our property that drops lots of pine cones. But here, the cones were HUGE! They were about as big as Norma's head. See second photo, first column.

    Near the start of our hike, we walked through a drainage tunnel under highway 128. It was decorated with lots of graffiti (third photo, first column).

    Fall colors were just starting to emerge (fourth photo, first column).

    The trail was packed, dry dirt. On the sides of the trail, we passed quite a bit of poison oak and saw some buckeye trees bearing horse chestnuts (fifth photo, first column), and manzanita trees. These horse chestnuts looked quite a bit different than the ones at Southside Park. I wondered if I was getting my facts wrong but I'm basing my guess on the internet so it must be correct, right?

    We saw several dozen Western Fence Lizards (sixth photo, first column). As a kid, we called them "blue-bellies."

    Near the ruins of an old homestead (seventh photo, first column) from 1938, we had a snack. I saw a hollowed out depression in a large rock and wondered if someone used it for grinding flour.

    What I think was some kind of sparrow (eighth photo, first column) let us get unusually close to it before flying away.

    Way off in the distance, we spotted a Northern Flicker (ninth photo, first column). According to Wikipedia,
    As well as eating ants, flickers exhibit a behavior known as anting, in which they use the formic acid from the ants to assist in preening, as it is useful in keeping them free of parasites.

    As the trail climbed to the ridgeline, we had spectacular views.
  • Tenth photo, first column: Norma enjoying the scenery.
  • Eleventh photo, first column: The mountains west of Sacramento look quite a bit different than ones to the east.
  • Twelfth photo, first column: One face of this peak was rocky and while the other was grassy.
  • Thirteenth photo, first column: There was no need for a designated overlook. Every place on the ridgeline was a vista.
  • Fourteenth photo, first column: Another lizard.
  • First photo, second column: Lake Berryessa was as blue as the Chesapeake Bay is not.
  • Second photo, second column: We saw several dragonflies.
  • Third photo, second column: The trail was quite easy to follow.
  • Fourth photo, second column: It seemed each time we climbed to what we thought was the tallest peak, the next one looked even higher.
  • Fifth photo, second column: Down below, we could see where we parked, near Putah Creek.
  • Sixth photo, second column: Norma gets ready for another climb.
  • Seventh photo, second column: Another view of the lake.

  • According to Wikipedia,
    Petroglyphs are images created by removing part of a rock surface by incising, picking, carving, or abrading, as a form of rock art.
    Most petroglyphs are associated with prehistoric peoples but I believe this rock carving (eighth photo, second column) was modern.

    I was feeling like I was on top of the world (ninth photo, second column).

    We stopped for a short nap at a shady rock. Under it, I found a Pinevine Swallowtail pupa (tenth photo, second column).
    All the host plants that the pipevine swallowtail larvae eat have something in common: they contain a toxin that is harmful or distasteful to many animals but not to the pipevine swallowtail larvae! The caterpillar incorporates this toxin into its body to use as a defense against predators.
    - from GotScience Magazine - Life Cycle of a Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly

    A large praying mantis (eleventh photo, second column) did not want to let us pass.

    The trail went up and down quite a bit. But eventually, we started to make a gradual descent.
  • Twelfth photo, second column: Can you find Norma?
  • Thirteenth photo, second column: Many of the trees were victims of the Wragg Fire in 2015.
  • Fourteenth photo, second column: A view of the canyon we were gradually making our way down into.

  • After our hike, we sat by Putah Creek (fifteenth photo, second column) before heading to the nearby town of Winters for dinner.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.

    Day Five, Wednesday, October 10, 2018

    Norma and I rented bicycles at Trek Bicycle in Midtown, Sacramento. This is a great place to rent bikes. The fellow we worked with was friendly and knowledgeable. The bikes were comfortable and in excellent condition. They were far better than the bikes we currently have. The location of the store is also good. There is a lot to see in the area and getting around on bicycle is a good way to do it.

    We rode to the 32 mile long American River Bike Trail (a.k.a. the Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail). Then we biked to Old Sacramento, the R Street Historic District, and to the West Sacramento River Walk area. That's the ride in a nutshell. Now here's the long version.

    We biked past the Blue Diamond almond factory (first photo, first column), something for which Sacramento is very proud. When I think of almonds, I think of Blue Diamond. Going by here was probably the fastest way to get to the bike trail.
    Founded in 1910 as the California Almond Grower's Exchange, the organization claims to be the world's largest tree nut processing and marketing company.
    - from Wikipedia - Blue Diamond Growers

    I hadn't ridden on the section of the American River Bike Trail near the Old Sacramento area since the early 1990s. I didn't recognize a lot of things. We rode through the Woodlake Area. The fellow at the bike shop said there was an old trail (which we saw) and I think that might have been what I rode on long ago. I remember seeing homeless people along the bike trail near Old Sacramento 25+ years ago. But I never expected to see as many as I did today. I think I saw more homeless people along the bike trail than non-homeless people. At times, I felt like I was riding by a refugee camp. The folks here had bicycles that pulled trailers holding their belongings. Some had tents set up. Some of the encampments made it look like they had been there awhile. There was a lot of trash along the trail. But thinking about it, I suppose that if I were going to be homeless, this is where I would choose to live. Sacramento is a pretty big city in a very liberal state so I reckon there are lots of government social programs to provide these people the basic necessities. The area doesn't get very cold. And there are plenty of scenic places to set up a tent with a waterfront view. I thought to myself, "How can the government help homeless people without attracting more homeless people to the area?" That's not an easy question to answer.

    Norma and I made our way to Discovery Park. This is where the American River and the Sacramento River meet (second photo, first column).

    We rode past the Robert T. Matsui Waterfront Park, which I had never seen before.

    Then we passed the I Street Bridge (third photo, first column) and a little later, the Tower Bridge (fourth photo, first column) which has spanned the river since 1936. According to Wikipedia,
    The Tower Bridge is a Vertical lift bridge across the Sacramento River, linking West Sacramento in Yolo County to the west, with the capital of California, Sacramento, in Sacramento County to the east.

    Biking downtown, we found the R Street Historic District where we ate lunch and saw several walls decorated with art graffiti.
  • Fifth photo, first column: Reminds me of shower tiles.
  • Sixth photo, first column: Fantasy animals.
  • Seventh photo, first column: Black and white.
  • First photo, second column: Norma is one foxy lady.
  • Second photo, second column: Notice the colored glass.
  • Third photo, second column: The was probably the biggest mural.

  • What appeared to be pallets was actually a metal bike rack (fourth photo, first column).

    Norma and I rode across the Sacramento river to West Sacramento. Growing up, West Sacramento in Yolo County was a rough area. But the place has a totally different feel ever since they built the 7.5 acre River Walk (fifth photo, second column). This place is home to the summer concert series, Harmony on the River, and the Riverbank Music Festival. Also shown in this picture is the Ziggurat.

    From West Sacramento, we had a clear view of the downtown Sacramento skyline (sixth photo, second column) across the Sacramento River along with the I Street Bridge.

    Here is a view from the Tower Bridge looking out on the Sacramento River (seventh photo, second column). You can see the Delta King Hotel paddleboat which doesn't go anywhere.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.

    Over the years, I've studied Kenpo Karate, Modern Arnis, Escrima, Muay Thai, and Brazilian Jujitsu. I've had many instructors but the only one I keep in touch with is the first one, Sensei Arnie (wearing white shorts in the photo). I still like to drop by and participate in class when I'm in town. I started my training with him when I was nine years old. On the far left is Ken.
    Click thumbnail to enlarge.

    Day Six, Thursday, October 11, 2018

    They say some of the best things in life are unexpected. This was certainly true today. Norma, Ken, and I did the American Canyon - Dead Truck Trail hike described in "60 Hikes within 60 Miles: Sacramento." Unlike our hike two days prior, which took Norma and I west of Sacramento, this hike was east, where folks once looked for gold.

    The three of us walked on the trails of the Auburn State Recreation Area.

    The three of us saw a black acorn (first photo, first column) which Norma and I had never seen before.

    We crossed American Canyon Creek and Hoboken Creek where we looked for firebelly newts but instead just found frogs/toads. In the second photo, first column is Norma and Ken at Hoboken Creek.

    We snacked on wild berries and wild grapes (third photo, first column) that we found along the trail. Compared to domestic grapes, the taste of these is very similar but the fruit to seed ratio is much smaller.

    Ken and I make our way downhill (fourth photo, first column). The place looks pretty dry compared to the east coast but this is perfectly normal for this area in the autumn.

    Our unexpected treat was finding American Canyon Creek Falls.
    American Canyon Creek Falls is a very scenic and unique waterfall, nestled within a very narrow gorge along American Canyon Creek. It is only 15 feet high, but it is one of the coolest little waterfalls in the greater Sacramento area.
    - from Waterfalls West - Leon Turnbull Photography

    American Canyon Creek Falls flows into a deep pool carved out from a rocky gorge. See fifth and sixth photos, first column.

    From the pool, one can only see the lower part of the falls. See seventh, eighth, and ninth photos, first column. The upper part is nestled between steep boulders and much harder to see.

    There's not a whole lot to grab onto near the falls. I was tempted to get closer by swimming but that water is VERY cold snowmelt.

    We climbed above to get another view. The two patches of white in the tenth photo, first column are the upper (left) and lower (right) falls.

    Near both the upper and lower falls, there was a ring of white along the edges. See eleventh photo, first column. I assume it is mineral deposits. Like ring around the tub.

    I climbed to this rock ledge (twelfth photo, first column) to get a picture of the upper falls. It was a bit scary. I wouldn't recommend it. But from here, I did manage to get a shot of the upper falls (first photo, second column).

    In the second photo, second column, I am sitting just above the upper falls.

    We ate lunch.

    I think I've only seen a Banana Slug twice in my life. The second time was today. The first time, it was what I expected...long and yellow. But this time, it was small and more greenish. Only after doing an extensive image search online was I confident that what I saw was indeed a Banana Slug.
    Banana slugs have been used as food by Yurok Indians of the North Coast and by German immigrants in the 19th and early 20th centuries. A yearly festival and contest is held at Russian River (California) including slug races and a contest for recipes - though, even when fed corn meal to purge them or soaked in vinegar to remove slime, the slugs' flavor is not always well regarded, and the most successful entries are often those in which the flavor is unnoticeable.
    The banana slug is the mascot of the University of California, Santa Cruz. It is common in local forests, was approved by a student vote, and has won awards. One T-shirt caption was: "No known predators!"

    - from Wikipedia - Banana Slug

    This is what it looked like when we first spotted it (third photo, second column). I thought it was a seed pod but it was slimy when I touched it. Eventually, a head emerged (fourth photo, second column).

    Near the upper falls, we found a fiddlehead (fifth photo, second column). According to Wikipedia,
    Fiddleheads or fiddlehead greens are the furled fronds of a young fern, harvested for use as a vegetable.

    Quartz was embedded in the rocks at the lower falls (sixth photo, second column). Prospectors would often look for gold in quartz.

    We found this fellow near the lower falls. See seventh and eighth photos, second column.

    After a long break to explore the falls, we resumed hiking. Now were were on the Dead Truck Trail.

    We spotted a Northern Alligator Lizard (ninth photo, second column). This guy was about a foot long!

    I found a lucky horseshoe (tenth photo, second column). Is there such a thing as an unlucky horseshoe? It seemed to be made of aluminum. Quite a few horses use these trails.

    Eventually, we came to the landmark that gave the trail its name (eleventh photo, second column). I could not identify the make of the truck but there were certain things about it that reminded me of my grandfather's old farm truck which bore a striking resemblance to the Sanford and Son truck.

    Finally, we returned to the start, having completed 5.4 miles and 1184 feet of ascent.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.

    That night, we went out for a Vietnamese dinner at Pho Fresh. Joining us was Ken and Cousin Steve (photo).
    Click thumbnail to enlarge.

    Day Seven, Friday, October 12, 2018
    I spent much of the day recarpeting the front step. I used Gorilla Glue which I thought worked very good. I took care of various other things around the house and also studied for the historic walking tour I will be leading in my town on October 14 for the Savage 7k Run and One Mile Historic Walk.

    Later that day, we went to JCPenney for a family photo. After Norma's family did their most recent family photo, I figured I ought to do the same. It went very well. We had a good photographer who made it fun.

    Day Eight, Saturday, October 13, 2018
    We were all up early. Norma and I said farewell to my folks and then drove to the airport and caught our flight home.

    I always think of the things that have changed in Sacramento from what I remember and how much things differ from the area where we live.

    Changes from how I remember things:
  • The R Street Historic District is new to me. Very nice.
  • The West Sacramento River Walk area is a great upgrade to what was once less than appealing.

  • Differences between Sacramento and Savage:
  • Sacramento doesn't have the nighttime nature sounds that Savage has.
  • Sacramento still has police helicopters flying around at night. We sometimes have them in Savage but not as often. But when I do hear them in Savage, I am reminded of Sacramento.
  • Sacramento has ALOT more homeless people...more than I'd ever seen.
  • Sacramento is much more bicycle friendly.
  • Farmers' markets in Sacramento are hard to beat. Far better than anything in Maryland.
  • Clear, sunny skies are the norm in Sacramento if it isn't winter.
  • Hiking in the mountains is far more scenic in the Sacramento area than mountain hiking in Maryland.
  • The streets in Sacramento are wider.

  • I am glad we were able to attend the family gathering in Wilton. Maybe next year, we can time things to attend a festival.
  • Gilroy Garlic Festival. In 2018, it was in late July. The town is about 2 hours and 20 minutes from Sacramento, near Santa Cruz.
  • Fair Oaks Chicken Festival on September 21, 2019.